Seeing authors whose work you like reading switch genre is an interesting experiment and you never quite know how well they’re going to fare. Michael Grant’s Gone series blew me away as one of my favourite set of young adult releases, which managed to be pretty entertaining as it got darker and darker. So Michael Grant’s brand new Soldier Girl series was always going to be a must read for me and thankfully, It didn’t disappoint, already offering a strong contender for an awesome young adult novel that presents an alternate look into World War 2. It’s not quite as a drastic alternate history as Ryan Graudin’s Wolf by Wolf, where the Nazis won, but It offers a world where female soldiers were allowed to join up with the US Military following a court decision that women are eligible for service. As a result, Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr, and Rainy Schulterman are thrust headfirst into the war, volunteering for their own reasons, whether it be for the honour of Rio’s sister, the money for Frangie’s family or just simply the death of Germans for Rainy Schulterman, they’re thrust into one of the darkest conflicts in human history and that is where Front Lines picks up.
The book compares Front Lines to The Book Thief and Code Name Verity and whilst I haven’t read the latter, I would probably agree with the comparison to the former. The historical fiction combined with historical fact goes some way to creating an epic conflict that’s written and doesn’t shy away from the horrors of the Second World War. It’s very different from Grant’s Gone books, which had a death toll of its own, but Front Lines is possibly just as dark if not darker. Yes, it uses a lot of traditional war tropes like the rookie soldiers not knowing what they’re getting into, tank battles and more, but the book itself also looks at social injustice, and tackles many other themes such as sexism, racism and more, rather than just being a straightforward war story, and as a result, that extra depth helps the novel stand out just a bit more.
If you’re looking for gritty, dark fiction then Front Lines will no doubt be right up your street. The characters are pulled off just as well as in Michael Grant’s Gone series and the likes of Rainy, Frangie and Rio all being well developed and well-rounded protagonists. The action is near constant and the vivid detail that Grant creates really helps flesh out the atmosphere, allowing for a strong, powerful read that shouldn’t disappoint readers. This does mean however that it is quite long for a young adult novel, and the pacing may be slow in parts, but that doesn’t mean that you should shy away from the book, as it’s a strong, captivating read that I cannot help but recommend. Is it an early contender for one of the best young adult novels of 2016? We’ll have to wait and see.
Wolf by Wolf has been a novel that I’ve heard a lot about since its release last November and when I finally had the chance to read it, I was quickly taken aback by just how good and original it is. It’s an alternate history young adult novel that can be described as a mix between The Man in the High Castle, Inglourious Basterds and oddly, Mad Max: Fury Road, with the main action sequences taking place over the course of one long race. The book is set in a dark future where Hitler, the Germans and the Japanese won World War 2 and it’s been over 10 years since it ended. Yael, who has gained the ability to change her appearance at will in the aftermath of dark twisted experiments at Auschwitz, finds herself with one goal in mind, killing Hitler.
However, killing the leader of the Third Reich is never an easy challenge but she might have a shot at doing so, by completing the legendary Axis Tour, a long distance motorcycle race from Berlin to Tokyo that weeds out the strongest and the smartest from the weak and the poor. The winner gets an audience at close quarters with the Fuhrer, and if he gets killed on screen whilst the whole world is watching, then history could change forever. To make things more complicated, Yael has to undergo a transformation into Adele Wolfe, Germany’s most famous female rider and previous winner of the Axis Tour, and with her character comes problems of her own.
There was so much to love about Wolf by Wolf. It’s rare that you see alternate history tackled in young adult fiction and even rarely as good as Ryan Graudin’s Wolf By Wolf. The premise is the biggest draw and it delivers admirably, plunging readers into a very quick novel that doesn’t hold anything back in regards to the pace, it’s virtually nonstop. And it’s not just the action that Graudin excels at, it’s the character development and storytelling. Yael is an extremely well developed character and her complexity is fully realised in this novel, instantly striking a cord as a memorable protagonist who has to deal with her own problems when she’s trying to fit into Adele Wolfe’s life. What happens when her brother asks her questions about events that she should remember but because she’s not Adele she doesn’t? The suspense is there throughout the book, and whilst due to the subject matter may be difficult to read in places, is effective enough to work.
Wolf by Wolf is one of the most original things to come out of the young adult genre in ages and I haven’t read anything else like it in a while, and only really The Man In The High Castle and Inglourious Basterds (both of which are seriously worth watching – I haven’t read TMITHC novel – by the way, if you haven’t already) come anywhere close in the subject matter. Sure, there’s probably more out there like this but I haven’t stumbled across it yet. The fast pace, the fascinating uniqueness of the insane premise, Wolf by Wolf is a novel that makes me regret making my best of 2015 list so soon because this would have been on there for sure.
As far as I’m concerned, this book alone makes Ryan Graudin a must read author for me and Wolf by Wolf is pretty much essential reading in the young adult genre. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there is indeed a sequel to this novel, and you can pretty much guarantee that I’ll be reading it as soon as it comes out, or as close to the release date as possible.
Truthwitch is one of the first novels released in 2016 that’s been massively hyped up and it’s been billed as an instant new classic by Sarah J. Maas, an author of the NYT bestselling Throne of Glass (which I need to get around to reading at some point). Whilst it doesn’t quite live up to those lofty expectations it is still an imaginative, epic and exciting new novel, that hits the ground running for The Witchlands series.
One of the most interesting things that Truthwitch has is the fantastic magic system that Dennard has created here. It’s immersive and engrossing, and the pace never feels victim to fleshing it out and explaining how it works. Dennard handles the characters that are part of this world well. The main protagonists Safi and Noelle are part of the world where everyone is born with some kind of magic or “witchery” that enhances their lives and makes them stand out from the rest. Both two characters have different perks and flaws that come with their magic, and whilst Noelle is a Threadwitch with the ability to see emotional threads that bind the world, Safi has a far more valuable and dangerous gift, that of the Truthwitch, which grants her the ability to know when a person lies or not. This forces her to spend most of her time in secret and in hiding, and even with the help of the Windwitch Privateer Prince Merik, it isn’t going to be easy for the characters who both find themselves tested and pushed to the limits throughout the pages for the novel.
The other categories that the witches could fall into are also interesting to note. As well as Threadwitches, Truthwitches and Windwitches there are also Airwitches (which have only a small difference to Windwitches) and each subtype allows for further explanation.
Truthwitch moves along at a quick pace with some great fight scenes and action. There is the inevitable romance and there are some scenes of ballroom dancing throughout the book, but it doesn’t overshadow just how fun Dennard’s novel is. However it’s not perfect. There’s a few tropes that it uses throughout the novel, and having the characters fall in love instantly is one of them. Safi and Merik fall victim to this which is unfortunate because Merik’s character isn’t as well developed as he could have been. Safi herself also suffers some problems from being the standard character with special gifts that young adult fantasy seems to be so full of, but just because these things are there doesn’t prevent this book from being a decent read.
The book makes the use of its nonstop action to be consistently entertaining throughout and chances are, despite whatever problems the book may have, it won’t bore you. It’s rare that I read a book nowadays with a female friendship as strong as the one between Safi and Iseult, and it really pays off over the course of the novel as these characters are thrust from one situation into another, rarely slowing down.
So Truthwitch may have its flaws but most people will be able to enjoy it. It’s entertaining, fun and a quick read, and for one of the first major releases of January 2016 (I read this shortly after it came out in the UK), Susan Dennard’s novel introduces us to an exciting Witchlands world that will hopefully be great to return to as I have faith that things can only get better in the second novel.
Well, the ending was actually kind of depressing. Feels like a more realistic Fault in Our Stars aimed at people who have watched way too many movies.Well, the ending was actually kind of depressing. Feels like a more realistic Fault in Our Stars aimed at people who have watched way too many movies. David Lynch references were something that I did not expect in a YA book but even if brief was awesome. Full review soon, but if you enjoy contemporary YA books then you'll probably like this. Will give the movie a watch when it comes out on DVD in the UK - even though this isn't especially my sort of thing. ...more